Sligo19: An Invitation to a Joyful Life

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Monday 15 July

Seán Mullarkey is Senior pastor of St. Mark’s Church, Dublin and National Leader of Christian Churches Ireland. His seminar on Monday looked at the theme of “joy”. Here’s a summary of what he had to say.

Joy is a key ingredient of Christian discipleship.  Joy and rejoicing are part of the fabric of our walk with God. It is not a requirement of Christian discipleship but it is a consequence!  We have come across people who are living in a hellhole but still have joy!

It doesn’t honour the Lord to look like the frozen chosen. Sometimes our hearts and faces look like we are sucking on lemons. The Lord suffered and died for us so that we can access His joy. It is a product of God’s abundance and an overflow of the vitality of life. God is life itself!

Philippians 3:10-21 is a passage is written by Paul who is stuck in prison.  His race is not yet run and yet his joy is real.  How can I connect with this? Given the hardship of his circumstances, how can we have the same joy?  He gives us three lessons:

1) Pressing On

One of our temptations is to give up.  If God has a calling on our lives and we stay in our comfort zone, we will be miserable. Yes, it might be scary but when you step into your calling, you will have an abundance of joy.

Some people talk about a honeymoon phase of our walk with God but He wants us to know this joy continually.  Paul talks about living a life of fruitful labour.  When we are connected to Jesus, we will have fruit, much fruit and fruit that lasts.  In the same way, we will have joy, much joy and joy that will last! 

What are you pressing on to take hold of in your life? What prize are you moving towards?  

I think a lot of misery and depression has to do with aimlessness and purposelessness.  God has taken hold of you on purpose, for a purpose.  If that doesn’t excite you, then check your pulse!  What an amazing gift to be part of God’s plan for your life.

Paul explains that Pressing On involves

Forgetting what is behind

In March 2018, Roger Bannister was the first person to run the four minute mile but a month later, John Landy smashed that record.  The two men then had a race together.  John Landy was in the lead for most of the race but in the final stretch, he looked around to see where Roger was and in that split second, Roger overtook him.

 It is so hard to run a race if you are looking backwards. God doesn’t want us focusing on our failures or our past hurts. Jesus dealt with our sin, past, present and future on the cross.  Your pain and hurt is real but it is not your identity.  It is something that you might still need counselling and prayer for but please take your eyes off that which is in the past and press on towards what God has called you to.  We want to give glory to God not to the works of the enemy.

Another challenge is people looking back at their old successes and hankering for the “glory days.” We need to run the race because there is so much more that God has in store for us. 

 Strain towards what is ahead

We like the easy life. We want a harvest without the effort! The word “strain” here speaks of stretching out or straining forth. It is the body of a runner that is bent forward, his hand stretched out towards the goal and his focus on the prize.   

Are we a bit soft? I read testimonies of ministers who are in countries where they are persecuted for their faith then I look at my life and what I complain about.  We grumble about the traffic, about our lack of wifi connection or being in the wrong queue at the supermarket.  All of these things are so trivial.

Modern day Christians want easy street but God wants us straining towards what is ahead.  Too often we focus on the troubles we have rather than the fact that God has overcome the world. We are spirit filled people. We believe that the Lord is able to open doors that no man can open. Nothing is impossible to our God and He calls us to be labourers in the harvest field.  

Have we forgotten the joy of the harvest? Has it gotten old?  If news of people becoming Christians doesn’t excite you then please, in love, give yourself a smack across the face.  Is there anything more exciting than to hear someone talking about being saved? One of our favourite thing to do is hang around people who are brand new Christians.  They may not have the right language to describe everything but they are so excited. Maybe one will say, “That was *@£#¡€* amazing!”  God will sort out their language later on... but for now, enjoy their joy! We must guard against cynicism.  

2) Be an Example / follow good examples

As we strain towards what is ahead, we need to understand that each of us is called to be an example.  Whenever we take on the name of Christian, we are inviting people to look at our lives. 

You can put on a show and present yourself as a man or woman of God but act like a demon at home. Hypocrisy steals joy. People are expecting those who profess Christ to live for Him.  There is a call to be an example and to follow good examples.   We live in a world where we look for role models but few want to be one.  Follow people who are godly examples and shut down the influence of ungodly examples.  

 Are you a godly example? Do I confuse people or throw them off the scent of Christ?  Imagine living your life for the sake of other people’s progress instead of your own - that brings joy.

3) Eagerly Await

We are anticipating the return of the king  As the world goes to depression lock down over global warning and pollution (and we should all be involved in positive responses to look after our world) we are eagerly awaiting the return of the king.  

This speaks of zealous anticipation.  It is like ordering a bag of chips when you are starving. It is like a child standing on tip toes, waiting for their father to come home at the end of the day.

When was the last time that we were eagerly awaiting the return of Christ? When was the last time we were standing on tip toes because we were so excited? Have you lost that eternal perspective?

I pray in Jesus name that something of what I’ve shared will give you access to a new understanding of joy and some clear steps towards joy!